Hello! Thanks for checking out this page on How to Harvest, Blanch, Freeze, and Store Swiss chard, kale, and spinach. The following instructable is from my real-world experience as an avid gardener of everything edible. Cheers!
Large Swiss Chard Leaf
Swiss Chard: The Basics
Swiss Chard is one of the most beneficial plants you can grow in your garden. Chard is fast growing, colorful, easy to prepare, easy to store, and full of vitamins and minerals. It is regarded by some as a close second to spinach in terms of health benefits.
According to the World's Healthiest Foods Organization, Swiss Chard is high in Vitamins K, A, C, E, B2, B6, B1, B3, and B5. It is also high in magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, copper, calcium, zinc, and biotin. To see WHFO's full analysis check out this link, http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=16.
Below you will find a quick step-by-step guide to harvesting, blanching, freezing, and storing your swiss chard, as well as an in depth look at each step with pictures! This also works for spinach and kale, with minor variations based on how you want to use your leaf stalks.
If you are looking for some great kale, swiss chard, and spinach recipes, scroll to the bottom and check out My Related Hubs or the links to recipe books I like scattered within this Hub.
- Pick swiss chard by snapping the stem at its base.
- Separate the leaf material from the stalks, discard/compost the stalks if you don't like to eat them. Stalks can be used like celery and are good in soup.
- Heat a large pot of water to a boil.
- Submerge the swiss chard in the boiling water for 3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes, remove the swiss chard and dump the blanched leaves into a sink/large bowl of cold water.
- After the leaves have cooled, grab handfuls of swiss chard and squeeze the water out into the drain.
- Shape blocks of squeezed swiss chard into desired sizes and shapes (blocks are easy).
- Freeze these blocks on a cookie sheet in your freezer.
- Once frozen, remove the blocks from the cookie sheet and package into freezer containers for storage!
Step 1: The Harvest
Pick swiss chard in the morning or evening when it is not too hot. This will keep the leaves fresher while you prepare them. Snap the stalk off of the plant as close to the base as possible, this is both to keep the plants looking nice and help prevent rot from taking hold. Pick the largest leaves first, these are the least likely to keep growing and it allows the smaller leaves to soak in more sun and give you a second and third harvest later in the season. I collect mine in an old milk crate because they are strong, waterproof, and easy to carry/stack.
Step 2a: Separation
There really is no good way to do this. You may only want to keep the leafy matter because the stalk is often very fibrous and stringy when you allow your chard to grow full size. So in whatever way suits you best, remove the leafy matter from the stalk. I prefer to hold the stalk from the underside of the leaf and rip the leaf matter off in 2 pulls.
You can save the stalks, eat them fresh like celery, or use them in soups and roasted dishes. Generally, younger stalks are less stringy and taste better. I don't particularly like the stalks, so stalks go into my compost bin at my house. To each their own.
Step 2b: The Stalk
Some people suggest keeping the stalk too. If you don't mind the taste, the stalks can be eaten like celery. I've also heard of the stalk being blanched (see how to blanch further down), chopped into 1/2" pieces, and frozen to be used in soups. I prefer to add the stalks to my compost bins for the worms to eat.
Step 3: Boiling Water
Fill a big pot, like one you might use for canning, 2/3rds the way full with water. Bring this to a boil over high heat and keep it boiling.
Step 4: Blanching
Blanching is the process of partially cooking vegetables to kill the enzymes that would otherwise cause decomposition. This is a CRTICAL STEP in preparing your Swiss Chard for storage!
Swiss Chard needs to be blanched for about 3 minutes. To do this take a few big handfuls of your chard and toss them into the boiling water, making sure they are completely submerged so they blanch evenly. When the 3 minutes is up, the easiest way to remove the leaves from the water is to dunk a colander in and scoop out and use a pasta spoon (see it in the picture).
I don't use the same water for blanching more than 5-6 batches. You may also need to add a little more water after each batch to make up for the steam and what the leaves soaked up.
Step 5: The Cool Down
After you remove the Swiss Chard from the boiling water it needs to be immersed in very cold water. The cold water stops the cooking process and keeps your Swiss Chard from fully cooking before you freeze it. This always allows you to handle the hot leaves without burning yourself!
Step 6: Squeeze It
Over a bowl or empty sink, take handfuls of cooled Swiss Chard and squeeze out as much water as you can. It will freeze better with less moisture in it and take up less of your precious freezer space! This also allows you to mold the chard into desired shapes.
PRO TIP: Use a large piece of cheesecloth or clean muslin to squeeze water from a large batch of blanched greens. Place the blanched greens in the center of the cheesecloth, bring the 4 corners together and twist the cooled bag of greens. This is a variation of wringing out a towel.
Step 7: Portion Control
If you have ever tried to get a small chunk of frozen vegetables out of a gallon bag, you've probably found out that you either have to thaw the whole bag or get out the machete. To fix this problem, the best way to freeze Swiss Chard is in portion controlled sizes. I have found that I generally use a block slightly larger than a bar of soap in most of my recipes, so this is the size I shoot for. Once the blocks are formed, line them up on a cookie sheet to freeze.
PRO TIP: Use non-stick silicone baking sheets on your cookie sheet before freezing the blocks! It prevents the blocks from freezing to the pan.
Step 8/9: The Freezer
Now that you've shaped your chard into manageble blocks. Its time for them to go in the freezer. Keep them on the cookie sheet while they freeze so they can be snapped apart and placed into containers without being frozen together.
I froze 1 cookie sheet with 23 blocks in 4 hours in my chest freezer.
Once they are frozen, use a spatula and pop them off the cookie sheet. Place the individual blocks into freezer bags or cartons and your finished! Be sure to label your containers with the contents and date. Frozen Swiss Chard will easily store for 8-12 months.
Peggy on July 24, 2018:
this is a awesome idea. Takes no time at all. I have a steam oven making it faster and less mess. Love this idea........
Francoise james on August 19, 2017:
Thank you so much for all the information you're given it will surely help me preserve this vegetable that I love so much!
Lena Durante from San Francisco Bay Area on April 26, 2017:
I hate food waste, so I always cook the stalks. If you slice them thin, saute them with a little oil and then deglaze the pan with vinegar, they soften right up.
terrycadymt on October 11, 2016:
Thanks so much for your experimenting! I am working on stocking my freezer with fully cooked dinners and want to also stock vegetables. I finally figured out what people mean when they say to store the food flat. I'm using ziplock-type freezer bags, and after they're filled, I put them on the counter and gently push the food all the way to the outside edges and flatten the center mass out. In addition to making it thin enough to freeze faster, you can get rid of any excess air. Freeze them flat like that, then you can put them in a plastic bin like files in a filing cabinet.
SHARON on August 20, 2016:
I also cook a large pot of wildrice(put a few cooked greens in rice mixture and once cool, I shape into balls, place on cookie sheets freeze at least 4 hr. and put balls in freezer bags. Tried some today, works great.
asha on August 05, 2016:
Super helpful. Many thanks!
Suzy S on August 04, 2016:
Thank you for this helpful article. I have an abundance of Swiss chard and didn't want to waste it. I plan to freeze mine to thaw this winter for vege lasagna and as a supplement for my chickens!!
Alisa W on June 01, 2016:
thanks for the great info! have you tried this with beet greens also and what was the result?
Gee Bee on September 27, 2015:
Thank you for posting this info, and with excellent pictures no less! I've just harvested a whole lot of chard, and wasn't sure how to freeze them.
Joan, Christopher lake, SK on August 26, 2015:
I am really happy I found your site, I have given away a lot of my chard but still have lots left. Now I know what to do with it. Thank you
Ruth from St. Paul. MN on July 27, 2015:
Thank you for sharing this idea with me. I never heard of Swiss Chard before but I do freeze other kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Elaine on May 31, 2015:
I love the stalks. Can you tell me if the stalks need a longer blanching time than the leaves do?
Lynn Quinn on October 09, 2014:
Very helpful! Processing was much easier than expected, and now I have both stalks and leaves stored in their own freezer bags. Stalks for soup...leaves probably going i to smoothies. And, they take up minimal freezer space. Many thanks!
Imogen French from Southwest England on August 30, 2014:
A very useful hub, thanks. I still have a few decent leaves left on my swiss chard, and have been trying to decide what to do with them. I like the stalks braised in a little butter to soften them, then added to the leaves to put in omelettes and quiches - the rainbow chard makes it quite colourful
Gardenergeorge (author) from Naperville, IL on August 15, 2014:
Younger stalks are quite like celery and you're right, they can be great in recipes! But celery stalks are not my cup-of-tea, so I find more use in feeding my compost (:
helene on August 11, 2014:
The stalks are the best bits to me !!! It seems such a waste to feed them to your compost. Steam until tender, and then cook them as a gratin with béchamel sauce and cheese in the oven and enjoy !!!
IK on July 27, 2013:
Not sure what kind of chard you're growing, but the stalks on mine are tender and flavorful. They are the main attraction in soups, stir fry's, and salads. Seems to be a waste to just discard them.
amaturegrower on June 11, 2013:
great instruction. just loved the picture guide.
great idea portion blocks.
abosrour on May 08, 2013:
Thank you for this wonderful effort
Leah on October 13, 2012:
I was very happy to find your site information on storing chard. I've been postponing the big harvest for lack of knowing how to deal with it. Thanks so much!
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 15, 2012:
Excellent hub and very practical tips to store chard. Very helpful pictures. Like the fact that you freeze them by cooking size portions for easy retrieval when wanted.
Voted up, useful.
Gardenergeorge (author) from Naperville, IL on July 02, 2012:
Jade0215 on June 26, 2012:
Very informative and I love the pictures that go along with it, great job!